March 17th, 2008
05:36 PM ET

Bears Watching… and waiting

One branch of the U.S. Department of Interior is considering declaring the Polar Bear an endangered species.

Another branch of the U.S. Department of Interior would very much like to sell oil and natural gas leases in Polar Bear habitat.

Polar Bears

And still a third branch of the U.S. Department of Interior says if the first branch doesn’t protect the polar bear, they’ll vanish from the U.S. by the year 2050.

Confused? Maybe that’s why the leadership of the Interior Department has missed the federally-mandated deadline to decide on putting the big bears on the Endangered Species List.   Several environmental groups are suing to bring an immediate decision.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service listed the bears as threatened last year, citing global warming and a rapid decline in Arctic Sea ice as a threat to their survival.

A January date to decide whether the bears deserve full protection as an endangered species came and went.  Many environmentalists feel that’s not an accident or oversight:  Interior’s Minerals Management Service is prepping a major sale of oil and natural gas leases in the Chukchi Sea, prime polar bear habitat off the Northwest Coast of Alaska. 

And warming earth or not, oil is now more than $100 a barrel.  At those prices, leases could go like hotcakes.  But protecting the polar bears could put the lease sale on ice.

Enter a third branch of Interior, the U.S. Geological Survey.  Their research says that vanishing polar ice could doom two-thirds of the world’s polar bears by 2050 – and completely wipe them out in U.S. Territory.

The environmentalists say the bears could soon be in crisis, and criticize the feds for fiddling while Alaska melts.  Kassie Segal of the Center for Biological Diversity told CNN’s Miles O’Brien, “They’ve missed every single deadline” in the protection process.

The Interior Department would not appear on camera to speak with CNN, but Fish and Wildlife Chief Dale Hall told a Congressional committee that he wants to make sure the decision comes at the end of “a well thought-out process.”

– Peter Dykstra, CNN Science and Technology Unit

For more information check out the following links:

Center for Biological Diversity 

US Minerals Management Service

US Fish & Wildlife Service Polar bear page

Detailed USGS studies on Polar Bears  

Program note: Watch Miles O’Brien "Planet in Peril" report in the 11p ET hour of 360°

Filed under: 360° Radar
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. onenibble

    The polar bears should be protected. Its a shame the bureaucrats are not an endangered species.

    March 18, 2008 at 3:54 pm |
  2. Melissa Wong

    Once we've exhausted all the oil in the world and killed off most if not all the the polar bears to access it – then what? Are we going to finally create transportation that does not run on oil then?

    March 18, 2008 at 3:02 pm |
  3. Bev C.

    Chuck: "kill a few bears", Few??? Between the man killing the polar ice caps where the bears are, now man wants to kill them so the greedy oil companies can make more money at our expense. Do you own any pets? How would you like a "few" of them killed to make room for a gas station where your house was? The oil companies care NOTHING about humans, let alone animals in their quest for money. Once this country is free of its addiction to oil, only then will we will animals that are on the endangered species list, come back. These animals were here before we were. Have some compassion for these creatures.

    March 18, 2008 at 1:18 pm |
  4. John Mead

    How can a Polar bear be endangered? They weren't endangered when there were only 5,000 in the 1960's. And now when there are over 25,000 because you Golbal warming nuts think the ice is melting and killing them they are now endangered? GET OFF IT! POLAR BEARS CAN SWIM OVER 100 MILES! THEY ARE NOT DROWNDING! The Sun is heating the planet not the humans. Unless your in your house.

    March 18, 2008 at 12:27 pm |
  5. Elliott A

    The oil companies that make trillions to damage the earth can afford to provide programs that protect all species of all endangered animails including the geneocides that has made humans endangered in sudan

    March 18, 2008 at 2:09 am |
  6. Michael, NC

    Ok nikki, seriously, it must have taken you all afternoon to come up with that argument...it was pretty good, but i'd say that most of the nation would like to hear of the oil options which affect their gas prices EVERY DAY. And along with the oil story comes the bears...what are you saying? Leave the bears to die and get oil or find a consensus? I'm pretty sure we havn't forgotten our soldiers in Iraq, this is just a blog, not our social life in it's entirety. People are aware of our fallen brothers in foreign countries. They may need reminding, but to sit and call these minor stories a waste of time is pretty low. And as for Hagee, he didn't attack a specific race and make direct insults to any of the candidates, so his offense is not applicable as of yet. Watchdog America is a puny attempt to raise funds for dumb causes, so don't waste your time. Woodward's claim to fame is Watergate, he is not google, he is nothing more than a muckraker himself. As I said, this is alow key blog, there is plenty of info on the war on the site, so I encourage you to look around. It may change your mind.

    March 18, 2008 at 2:08 am |
  7. Bill Brooks

    It's called Nation in Peril. We have enough oil reserves to terminate our relationship with the middle east. If we don't use our own resources, the time will come that we have nothing left because all our wealth will be in China and Saudi Arabia. Wake UP! There is no scientific evidence of global warming! It's a political thing to give Al Gore and his friends more power.

    March 18, 2008 at 12:02 am |
  8. Nikki

    Really? Is this newsworthy? Has anyone heard of Winter Soldiers? If not look it up! 250 veterans of the Iraq war came back and told their horrific stories. Does it bother anyone that we're talking about Bears while we might not have the civil liberties to be discussing simplistic ideas on whether or not our government should in fact take them off the endangered species lists. Until people demand to have NEWSWORTHY stories, it won't happen. Does anyone know about Congress having a secret session on Friday? (Only five times in history!) Does anyone care to know that the first Clinton bombed Iraq in 1998? Does it bother anyone else that every American seems to know how much Spitzer payed for a hooker, while 90% (According to A PEW Research Poll) don't know how many American soliders have died. Or even a range of how many dead Iraqi civilians are dead? Does it bother anyone that China is slaughtering the Tibetian people, but we're still going to participate in the Olympics. Besides Richard Gere have we had any investigative reporting? What about John Hagee? Obama dropped 7points nationally because of the press covering this story, but John McCain hasn't been touched percentage wise because of the acceptance of Hagee. Seriously, CNN grow some balls. Inform the Public. Watchdog America. Use the first amendment to your advantage. INFORM the public. 24 hour news cycle doesn't mean you have to replay the same five stories all day. Seriously? As a society, we must not take anything less than muckracking. Call Bob Woodward- ask him what it means. Let's talk about the ratio of soliders in Iraq. Let's talk about the money it costs every hour to be in Iraq. Lets get information OUT there!

    March 17, 2008 at 11:18 pm |
  9. Amy

    Since we are already paying too much for a tank of gas, I vote to save the polar bears.

    March 17, 2008 at 10:27 pm |
  10. Annie Kate

    Whatever happened to being good stewards of what has been given to us? Polar bears need protection; they are representative of what can happen to many species, including our own, in the face of climate change.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    March 17, 2008 at 9:49 pm |
  11. Lisa

    There is an old saying about "as the animals go, so goes man". Hopefully someone will pay heed to this before it's too late.

    According to the Bible (which a lot of people in government like follow) – we (humans) were given the charge of being good stewards. Anyone else think we barely passing, if not failing?

    March 17, 2008 at 8:39 pm |
  12. Jo Ann


    I guess it is just politics as usual. In February, the Bush/Cheney Administration auctioned off millions of acres of habitat essential to the survival of polar bears to their friends in the Big Oil companies and Bush has included drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in his budget.

    Big Oil companies like ExxonMobil and Shell are using billions in profits to put pressure on our government to allow this harmful drilling. Royal Dutch Shell bid $105 million for a single tract of drilling acreage in the Chukchi Sea.

    It is up to us to put pressure on our government officials to pass legislation to stop this dangerous and destructive drilling by removing it from the federal budget. It is also important that they pass the Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act that would permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Senate must pass the Global Warming Wildlife Survival Act already passed by the House.

    The escalating gas prices will only cause the Big Oil companies to put more pressure on our government. We need to speak up against them.

    Jo Ann
    North Royalton, Ohio

    March 17, 2008 at 6:54 pm |
  13. Maggie

    Someone has been wanting to tap into Alaska for years. I understand both sides of this argument but I'm not sure the earth will survive longer by pouring more contaminants into the soil, water and air.

    $100 a barrel for oil is painful, but can we be guaranteed it won't be much lower, whether we drill or not? How long will it take to put the finished product on the market? If there's oil there now there will be oil there later. If the polar bears become extinct they won't be coming back.

    Where are we to find the financial backing for the drilling operations? Maybe we should put forth a bit more effort to treat our "enemies" in a friendlier manner. One that will yield many benefits for everyone in later years. It's quite obvious what ever we're doing now isn't working. I won't make the obvious statement concerning the oil barons we already have.


    March 17, 2008 at 6:28 pm |
  14. Chuck in Alabama

    With 4,000 dead in Iraq on their hands, what does it matter that big money kills a few bears? Sad.

    March 17, 2008 at 6:21 pm |
  15. Lilibeth

    What's up with the U.S. Dept. of Interior? Did they not watch CNN's "Planet in Peril?"

    Edmonds, Washington

    March 17, 2008 at 6:05 pm |
  16. Tammy

    I vote for saving the bears. We when stop caring about and for our environment and fellow creatures who inhabit our planet, we really do become subhuman.

    March 17, 2008 at 6:00 pm |
  17. Cindy

    It isn't hard to see what they are trying to do. They would obviously like to go for the oil rather than protect the polar bears. I mean we have invaded other countries for it and didn't mind what happened to the people there until afterwards. So what is going to make them care about animals?

    I hope that these environmental groups that are suing them can get the ball rolling and get a decision now instead of later. It'd be a shame to lose the polar bear just because of our greed.

    Cynthia, Covington, Ga.

    March 17, 2008 at 5:56 pm |